Marc Chagall museum Nice
Marc Chagall was a Russian-Jewish-born French painter, and Chagall museum Nice is the first national museum built to pay homage to an artist while he was still alive. It is located on the Cimiez hill and opened to the public in 1973.
Chagall himself, in collaboration with the architect André Hermant, has left a big imprint on the museum’s design, which is very different from many other museums.
Chagall did not want it to look like an ordinary museum, rather an ordinary villa, an ordinary house, where light should play a central role. The light and tranquility were to create a spiritual space where the religious power of the paintings was expressed through the visitor’s experience of the light at the very time they visit the museum.
The Kuna Auditorium is deliberately left in the dark, so it emphasizes the beautiful stained glass windows.
The museum offers a large room with 12 paintings, “The Biblical Message”, a smaller room with five compositions, “Song of Songs”, an auditorium with large decorative windows, as well as a pool and a garden.
The garden welcomes and extends tranquility
The beautiful Mediterranean garden that surrounds the building also plays a fundamental role in giving the museum the tranquility Chagall wanted so much. The garden is planted with olive trees, cypresses and maritime pine trees.
Chagall also collaborated with the landscape designer Henri Fish and personally chose a number of flowering plant species because of their colors, mostly white and blue; a number of African lily plants were also included so that they could bloom every July 7 on Chagall’s birthday.
The art collection
The Permanent Collection is the largest public collection of works by Marc Chagall.
The centerpiece of the collection is the famous biblical cycle, which consists of 17 paintings depicting Genesis & Exodus, also known as Biblical Message, as well as Song of Songs, made by Chagall in the early 1950s.
These are complemented by a large number of works of secular or religious inspiration. A total of over 400 paintings, gouaches, drawings, washing drawings and pastels.
The biblical message illustrates twelve key events from Genesis and Exodus, the first two books of the Jewish and Christian Bibles.
The twelve themes displayed on the site in chronological order are:
- The creation of man
- Abraham and the three angels
- Isaac’s sacrifice
- Jacob breaks with the angel
- Moses and the burning bush
- Beat the cliff
- Jacob’s dream
- Noah and the rainbow
- Noah’s Ark
- Adam and Eve banished from paradise
- Moses receives the Ten Commandments
Chagall’s magical “The Song of Songs”
Another great series on display is a set of five paintings of Song of Songs. These works hang in a more intimate chapel-like space, where red is the prominent color. The three dimensions of these paintings are musical, sacred and carnal.
In addition to the main exhibitions, the museum also has a few works from all periods in Chagall’s life on permanent display. Do not miss the large mosaic that illustrates the life of the prophet Elijah. An additional large Chagall mosaic can be seen at the Faculty of Law at the University of Nice.
Marc Chagall – short biography (1887-1985)
Born July 7, 1887 in Vitebsk, Belarus. There he began his artistic education and continued in St. Petersburg. A scholarship then took him on to Paris in 1910.
In Paris he became friends with a number of poets, and his motifs were based on the Jewish culture of Vitebsk. Among other things, “Me and the Village” from 1911, which is exhibited in New York, and “The Violinist” from 1913 exhibited in Amsterdam.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Chagall was back in Russia, where he established an art school in Vitebsk. There he also married his wife Bella.
In 1920 he went to Moscow, where he began to write his memoirs, which were later published in 1923. They would then be translated to French. From Chagall’s Russian stay come a number of strong depictions of nature of Vitebsk and works that expressed his love for his wife Bella, including “Wedding”, which is exhibited in Moscow.
In 1923, Chagall traveled on to France after a brief stay in Berlin. He stayed here until 1941. In 1931 he visited Palestine, among other places, which became a life-changing experience, both spiritually and creatively.
There he began a series of illustrations of the contents of the Bible, which was published in 1956. It was to prove to be his lifelong passion.
In the period 1941-1948, Marc Chagall stayed in America before returning to France, where he stayed until his death in 1985. After his return, he made a number of stained glass windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz and for the synagogue in Jerusalem. .
In 1979, Chagall decorated a very beautiful mosaic wall in France’s smallest cathedral, Notre-Dame de la Nativité in Vence.
Chagall’s other well-known decorations include a ceiling painting from 1964 at the Paris Opera and murals from 1966 for the Opera in New York.
And finally, of course, his collection of biblical works on display today at the Marc Chagall Museum in Nice.
Bookstore & café
The Chagall Museum also includes a bookstore and a café.
Experiences close by
Two other major museums, the Matisse Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Nice Cimiez, are nearby and well worth a visit.
Entrance: € 8
By Tommy Sverre – 2022